Within the noise community, there are no shortage of prolific artists – just try to pick through a year’s worth of Merzbow releases and you’ll get the point – but too many are content to plough the same one-note furrow and leave it at that. In contrast, Crowhurst’s prolific nature is the product of Jay Gambit’s over-abundant creativity. In five years, he’s traversed the vast sonic steppes of noise, worked with the likes of Black Leather Jesus and Breakdancing Ronald Reagan and has now rejigged Crowhurst’s fluidic line-up, bringing in comrades Andrew Curtis-Brignell (Caïna) and Matron Thorn (Ævangelist’s Reuben Jordan). Their first effort in this formation has been II, the second part of an industrial metal trilogy and one of the most invigorating metal albums of 2016. We caught up with Jay to discuss Crowhurst’s unique nature, noise elitists and, naturally, wrestling.
Congratulations on II, man, it sounds fantastic.
Thank you so much. I recorded it in Manchester, actually.
What prompted the decision to record there? Was it just that it was easier for Andy?
I love Andy, and he’s like family to me, so I was coming to visit him. It’s less that it was easier to do it there, because it really isn’t, but it was more just the fact that being in the studio is fun and I wanted to do it with him. There’re a lot of advantages to being in the studio. You can be, like, “Hey, I want to record drums,” and the engineer will say to you that he has three different types of drums. He’ll hit the acrylic one, you’ll be like, “Hey, that’s cool.” He’ll hit the wood one, you’ll be, “Eh, I dunno.” He’ll hit the metal one – “That’s it!” For me, that’s like fucking Disneyworld.
Is there always a bit of trial and error in the recording sessions or are you a little more set in your ways?
It’s mostly trial and error. I have things that I like to do but I’m 27 years old. Shit’s changing every single day. I try not to stay static. The goal is to get the proper shit achieved and less about trying to go with the same kind of stuff that feels comfortable.
So is that the ethos for the project overall?
Do you find that remaining so fluid is a useful tool for avoiding stagnation?
It’s a project with 70-something records so in order to not make the same record over and over again you have to do different things. A real good way to make sure you don’t make the same record twice is to hire different people every single time. Everyone’s got their own set of skills and limitations and as long as you know that, are comfortable and willing to work with those things – are happy to work with those things – you can just look at it as a skill set and apply the skillset to where it’s needed.
How did you end up with this line-up?
Andy and I are really good friends; we’d been talking about it, we’ve always had a creative gel, so to speak, and so it was just a natural thing for us to come together. We both have very similar influences and it came down to him really wanting to make the stuff that I wanted to make, which is the key. If somebody doesn’t want to make the kind of music that you do when making a record, don’t make it with them – do it with other people who do want to make the stuff you want to make. I don’t want to be a slave-master – “You, write that riff you hate!” I don’t want someone to feel that every time they go out and get up on stage, they have to play that fucking song again. It seems counterproductive to why we do this. Andy and I both love that style of music so it’s a natural thing for us to make this record.
As far as getting Reuben on this, he and I have been friends since we were kids. We’re both from south Florida, we both hung out at the same goth shows at the same skate park, so I knew that he would dig on this industrial metal thing. When I asked him about it, he was so stoked and the next thing you know, I sent it to him a couple of days later he sent me back the whole record with all the guitar parts.
This is the second part of a trilogy. What exactly is linking these three records – is it just tonal or is it also lyrical?
It’s more the idea that if you placed all these records one after another, you’d be able to listen to them and it would feel like you were listening to one, really long, three-LP set as opposed to many metal bands who will release one album, then another completely separate album – you can’t really box that shit together. I’m not saying these are the only metal albums we’ll be releasing but these all, like you said, have the same tonal themes, the same lyrical themes, and they just gel together. They’re structured very similarly and they’re structured in a way that you could start on I, and just as that final track, “Luna Falsata”, ends you could pick it up on “Cold Sweat” – that tape warble that ends “Luna Falsata” on the first record just blends in perfectly to that MS-20 oscillation that starts up “Cold Sweat”. It’s meant to snap into that, pick up that thread and suck you back into it.
So did you have ideas for II already in place as you were finishing off I?
The album was already written.
So is the third part already set down then?
First off, when I say it was already written, the demos were already formed but the way Andy and I work is that I will sit and write very detailed descriptions of what I want things to sound like and he will send me back exactly what’s going on in my head. Then I’ll go, “Alright, cool. Reuben, play exactly this type of stuff.” I gave him a little less direction, though, because Ruben knows – “Yo, play Marilyn Manson atmosphere.” “Okay.” I know he has specific style – if you’ve ever heard Ævangelist, you know how he plays guitar, so it’s not like I have to give him a ton of direction. “Yo, do that thing you do!” He sent them back to me and that was how we wrote it. I wrote lyrics to it and then when we went into the studio, it was very much more about the drums, playing live drums on top of the electronic drums, and then when it came to writing the bass parts I sat with Andy. He’d play a riff and I’d go, “No, play it more ignorant than that. Like, Trump voter ignorant. Stupid mosh part ignorant. Flat-bill hat ignorant.” “Oh, I got it!” That’s that bassline on “Fractured Lung”. Just write the most ignorant mosh bassline you can, and there you go. Those things are written on the spot together, but as far as the album, the part that I do, which is basically seven pages of what these thirty minutes should sound like, was already written. That was one of the things that I think works so well with Andy and I, that he was able to translate what that all was about.
“I’ve always been kind of mystified that people dig my shit but eternally grateful – I mean, I do it for fun. Yeah, I do it because it’s what I love and it’s my passion, it’s the only thing I know how to do, but if I didn’t have fun doing this I’d be a fucking clown. I do this because it’s what drives my fucking soul.”
What’s happening with Crowhurst, the solo project? Does it still exist, or will it continue in another form?
Yeah, it doesn’t go away. Crowhurst is kind of like Swans in the sense that it’s just my project. If I want to release a big, atmospheric black metal record without drums or guitar, it’s not like there’s going to be somebody telling me not to do that; even when I’ve got a label, that’s why Girl 27 exists. If I really want to release that record and the label tells me, “Nuh-uh-uh, you can’t do that shit, you’re gonna dilute the brand,” I’ve got this side-project I can release literally the same shit under and people will understand what it is. And when I tour, sometimes I just want to tour and play harsh noise. For a lot of heavy musicians, there are times they just want to play loud, and I feel that way so heavily with playing noise live. It’s a very cathartic thing and take any chance to do it in front of a bunch of people, because it’s fun when people love it and it’s fun when people don’t get it, and it’s fun when some of the people get it – all the time, it’s fun. It’s never a bad time, so no, I’m not giving that up.
Given the nature of Crowhurst, you straddle both the noise and black metal scenes. Have you fallen foul to much of the scene elitism that’s prevalent in both? I know that Andy’s had run-ins with some of the more backwards elements.
Oh yeah. If I had a nickel for every time I was called a poser, I’d have a shitload of nickels, and that’s cool. I always just thought of it as, “What am I posing as?” I’ve never claimed I was a really good musician. I’ve always been kind of mystified that people dig my shit but eternally grateful – I mean, I do it for fun. Yeah, I do it because it’s what I love and it’s my passion, it’s the only thing I know how to do, but if I didn’t have fun doing this I’d be a fucking clown. I do this because it’s what drives my fucking soul. As far as the elitism and shit, it’s cool as long as it doesn’t get in the way of playing certain shows. I think sometimes, a lot of the noise kids think it’s not noisy enough, and a lot of the metal kids think it’s not metal enough. I’ve got 76 fucking records, so there’s going to be something there that you think is cool. That’s why I try and make it easy.
I released a record called Droneworks, and it’s a two-hour compilation. Andy said, “I haven’t listened to all your shit because I can’t get through it because I can’t navigate your fucking discography, dude.” “Should I release a compilation record?” “You kind of need to.” So I put out Droneworks, which is hopefully going to be out as a 3-LP sometime next year, which I’m stoked about, so that’s a good roadmap to the drone stuff. You want the harsh noise stuff, it’s all under the Fuck You series. There’s other stuff but Fuck You Morissey, Fuck You Beatles, Fuck You Bono and Fuck You Dave Grohl are all really, really harsh noise records. They’re all solo records and the answer to people going, “Oh, you only do loads of collaborations! Oh, you don’t know how to do harsh noise!” Okay, there’s your harsh noise. I have straight wall noise stuff, like Mountain Of The Cannibal Goddess. Just today, I read an amazingly hilarious interview on MetalStorm.com with someone who really didn’t understand the concept of wall noise. “I’ve heard noise before but this doesn’t move! It’s basically just unchanging static!” Yep. I don’t know how you landed on the one wall noise record out of my entire discography but that’s the whole point of this one. It doesn’t move. Sorry. For people who think it’s not metal enough, there’s the self-tiled record, there’s II. For people who like the more Swans-like stuff, there’s the Lightbearer trilogy, and then there’s a shitload of collaborations.
The collaborations and splits are where I get super-fucking-weird because no-one listens to them. People do, but as far as the chart of what gets listened to, it’s metal records – big collaborative noise records – EPs and shit – splits and collaborations and then the B-sides records. It’s pretty far down there. There was one where I just said that I wanted to make a Butthole Surfers record. The reason this band is so multi-faceted is, I would have to start a band who sounded like the Butthole Surfers if I wanted to make a Butthole Surfers record in the real world but in my world I just called up my buddy Ben who sold me weed when I was sixteen and said, “Hey, you want to make a record?” and he said yeah – we ended up recording some shit in a day when I was on a trip seeing my mom in Florida. It was a really weird record. There’s a whole song where I didn’t have lyrics so I found a 1-star review of a McDonald’s on Yelp and that was the lyrics on the song, and it’s called “No Dollar Menu Items After Midnight”. It’s on my Bandcamp, it’s great. That’s why, with this project, I wouldn’t have it any other way as far as this kind of open framework of what to do. If people are elitists or shit like that, want to pick at me… I think people pick at Andy more because he’s a lot more politically outspoken about certain things whereas I just want everyone to get high in southern Florida and rock back and forth to some heavy tones. As fucking cliché as that sounds, everybody needs to treat each other like human beings. The elitism I get comes from the noise scene and it basically comes from how I sound. I wouldn’t trade my ability to make a record that sounds like whatever I want for the approval of a handful of elitist noise dudes in any day of the week.
I was curious about the Snuff record. I remember you mentioning that you found it difficult to listen to these days and after a listen myself, it’s a bit of a struggle.
Yeah, it’s not a really good record! I think I had been very frustrated. If you notice the themes of my project against the themes of a lot of other projects, you’ll notice a significant lack of talking about fucking ‘ultra-violence’ or ‘gore’ or ‘bondage stuff’ – it’s not really my thing. I talk about mental illness, or when it comes to horror movies, it’s usually about cannibals, or ‘let’s talk about film scholars from the 70s’, maybe sci-fi, but with Snuff, I was at a really difficult point in my life and I thought that if there was ever a point in my life to make that ‘angry’ record, it’s now. I thought, if I’m going to do this, I’m going to make a record that’s heavy, brutal – I want to make an audio version of what a snuff movie should sound like, with harsh noise. I was influenced by stuff like G.R. from Deathpile, especially that one track “Cartel Warning Shot” – that one track is basically my fake Deathpile track. When I look back, I really don’t think about it because it was something I made over the course of maybe four hours. I had a concept, I knew what I wanted, I knew the length of it – you really don’t need to make a record like that much longer than 37 minutes. So cool, let’s find about 45 minutes of good shit, cut it down, work it out make it into the record we need to make and after I got done making that, I felt better.
A final question – have you sent this to the Iron Sheik yet?
You know what, I haven’t. I feel like the Sheik’s been kind of busy, plus I’ve got a funny story, if you have the time, about the wrestling endorsement. When I originally was making this record, it was working with a different label from the one I’m on now. Are you familiar with the wrestler New Jack? Well, I tracked down New Jack and asked if he could cut a promo. We’re going back and forth with New Jack and at first he wants $500, and I’m, like, “I’m not giving you $500 to cut a promo! Not gonna happen.” We eventually decided on $250, and New Jack is working as a bounty hunter, right? Yeah, you didn’t know that! You know what bounty hunting’s like – it’s legal in America. Yup, New Jack was like, “That’s my new profession.” Well, I remember how hard it was just to track down his email address, and he’s a bounty hunter, which means his job is to be very hard to track down. He tracks people down. So, he asked me to send the money in advance or he wouldn’t do it and the label said, “We’re not sending a bunch of money to New Jack.” I’m thinking, “Would you trust New Jack with your money?” If he runs away with it, what are you going to do? Find him and say, “Give it back”? So, at the end of the day, we didn’t end up going with him. It isn’t that we didn’t trust him, it’s more that if it didn’t work out, he would be impossible to track down, because he’s a bounty hunter. That’s the wrestling endorsement story – it would’ve been Jake The Snake as I‘m sure he would’ve dug this record. Hopefully we can get this record to one of the new guys, maybe Seth Rollins as I know he’s a big fan of this kind of stuff. For the third record, we’re trying to get Kurt Ballou to do that one so who knows, if it all comes to fruition maybe we can get it in the hands of The Architect.